All business

MARSHALL – A record 39 students from Marshall High School attended the state competition for Business Professionals of America recently at the Hyatt Regency in Minneapolis, where 12 of them came away with the opportunity to advance to the national level in Orlando, Fla.

“Thirty-nine kids competing at state is the most in my career and I think the most in Marshall history, said Brenda Kellen, who has been the MHS BPA adviser for nearly 20 years. “It was a great year.”

While she’s taken as many as 16 students to compete at nationals in past years, this year’s team, which included 50 participants, was top-notch, Kellen said.

“Whether they made it to nationals or state or not, I’m just really proud of how well behaved they are,” she said. “They’re just a great bunch of future business professionals.”

Kellen describes this year’s team as a diverse, but extremely cooperative group.

Seniors Austin Leek and Daniel Merna, junior Tom Wyatt-Yerka and sophomores Elizabeth Her, Jordan Labat and Riley VanOverbeke earned bids to nationals after finishing in the top three in their various categories of competition Thursday and Friday.

“It’s pretty cool to be advancing to nationals,” Labat said. “I’m excited.”

Labat placed first in Basic Office and Basic Office Systems and Procedures. His administrative support team also placed in the top five at the state competition.

“There were 20 multiple choice questions and then I had to type four documents,” he said. “We have this packet that gives us the guidelines of all the documents and then they gave us information for them and you had to type them in.”

To practice, Labat said, he goes online and takes tests from past years. While the experience and knowledge he has gained so far has assisted him for competitions, he’s grateful to also be adding new skill sets to his resume.

“A lot of the questions relate to work in the office so that’ll help,” Labat said. “And typing documents, I’m sure I’ll need that in the future.”

VanOverbeke took first place in Network Administration in using Microsoft.

“They were all multiple choice questions,” he said. “I have books that are A+ certification books that I use to study. I read all my books and took practice tests to prepare.”

VanOverbeke was also a top 10 finalist in IT Concepts and PC Service and Troubleshooting.

“Students can make it to state in two events, but then there are also seven open contests that all kids who are there can be in,” Kellen said.”

While he’s been to Florida a few times already, VanOverbeke said he was looking forward to returning there for nationals, which is May 7-12.

“I’m pretty excited to be going,” he said. “I’ll probably keep studying and reading till then.”

Leek got first in the state in C++ Programming, while Merna took first-place in Prepared Speech, so they’ll both be competing nationally, as will Wyatt-Yerka, who was second in Interview Skills and fourth in Human Resource Management.

“Tom won’t be able to compete nationally in Human Resource Management, but he was very close in that event, too,” Kellen said. “He was only one spot away from qualifying.”

Kellen pointed out that a number of representatives from Marshall helped to make an impact at the competition.

“We’re fortunate that ViShay HiRel here in town actually sponsors that competition,” she said. “Denise Verstraete, who is the head of the human resources department, drove all the way to the cities to help judge it. I administer it. So Marshall, we kind of make a presence up in the cities for the state competition.”

Her advanced to nationals by placing third in Medical Office Procedures.

“It was a 15-question multiple choice test and then matching, too,” she said. “And one, we had to fill out abbreviations and also type up two documents. I was very nervous. I didn’t think I’d do so well, but it turned out good.”

Kellen said here are about 50 events students could compete in, so there are plenty of opportunities for every single student at MHS. Four students, Ruweyda Mohamed, Gina Vue, Mary Yang and Randi Olsen, also earned the right to attend nationals after receiving the Ambassador Torch Award.

The most difficult part is funding the trip, since students and their families are responsible for the cost. But if a student has been dedicated to working at the BPA-run store at school, she said, it’s much easier to make it happen.

“The BPA kids run ‘The Tiger Den’ so they have a great learning opportunity there that also lets them raise money,” Kellens said. “It’s a great way to apply all the business skills that they’re learning in how to run a business and earn the money to pay for nationals if they make it.”